Ninth of an 11-Part Series introducing the HOF Class of 2019
By BILL PLOTT
The general consensus of those who know him is that “Billy Odom loves high school sports.” And as a result, the organizers of the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Football Classic love Billy Odom.
The longtime Mobile high school football coach has been a volunteer. No, a super volunteer for the annual Classic from the game’s inception in 1988. He has been the one constant through the years as the administrative coach working in the background year after year to make sure the all-star clash is a memorable for all involved.
The Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame plans to the same for him March 18 at its annual induction banquet held at the Montgomery Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center by enshrining Billy Odom as a member of the Hall of Fame Class of 2019.
“Billy Odon loves high school sports, and to do what he has done for so long with no involvement with a particular school or coach is very honorable and what a true servant is about,” said UMS-Wright football coach Terry Curtis, a longtime friend and admirer who was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame himself in 2004.
A native of Mobile, Odom graduated from Baker High School in 1968 after a stellar high school career as a student-athlete. He attended Mississippi College on a football and track scholarship, receiving his bachelor’s degree from Mississippi College in 1972. He also earned a master’s degree in 1988.
He began his teaching and coaching career at his high school alma mater in 1972 as assistant football and head basketball and track coach. Three years later, he became head football coach and compiled a record of 61-80. Although his win-loss record was not spectacular, he was in the forefront of innovation at the time.
“He was the one that brought the passing game to Mobile high schools,” said Ed Lathan, who coached against Odom at B.C. Rain and later hired him at Alba High School. “When everyone else was in the wishbone, in the veer, and in the power-I, he had them spread out. We really didn’t know how to defend it.”
Retired Baker principal Clem Richardson remembers Odom’s impact on the student-athletes in Mobile County, especially his school.
“While most coaches were using two tight ends and the ‘three yards in a cloud of dust’ approach, his offenses were two or three wide receivers and throwing the ball,” Richardson said. “His offensive style opened the door for many of his players to receive scholarship offers when they graduated.”
Odom left Baker in 1988 to return to graduate school. After earning his master’s degree, he moved to Murphy High School for three years as a football assistant. Murphy went to the finals twice during his tenure there.
He accepted the head football coach position at Alba High School in 1992. He finished his coaching career at Alma Bryant in 2005.
Richardson said Odom was a major influence on and off the field. “Billy Odom has definitely made an impact on my life. His guidance was one of the reasons that I went into teaching and coaching. I recently retired as principal of Baker High School, and I have used many of the life lessons that I learned from him in my career as coach and administrator. Someone who has touched the lives of his players in the way that Billy Odom has definitely deserves to be in the AHSAA Hall of Fame. Billy Odom was truly a player’s coach. I had the honor of playing for Coach Odom in the 1970s and also serving as an assistant coach under him in the 1980s. He always put his players first when making decisions. As a father of three daughters, his players were the sons he never had.
“His door was always open to his players, who often went to him seeking guidance. On the field, he treated his players with respect and used every opportunity as a teaching moment to build confidence and self-esteem.”
Odom served in two important outside administrative positions even while he was teaching and coaching. For 29 years he was the administrative coach for the South team in Mobile’s Senior Bowl game. He also served as administrative coach for the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star game, handling players, coaches, equipment, rooms, meals and transportation.
UMS-Wright’s Curtis also noted Odom’s innovations in the passing game, but added his friend’s contributions were not limited to that.
“I have known Billy for 40 years,” he said. “The memories of Billy that stand out in my mind include his involvement with the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game. Billy has been administrative assistant for all of the 30-plus years of the existence of the game. He handles all duties with the players and coaches for the entire week. He is the most organized, perfectionist person I have ever been around. In my opinion, without Billy Odom, the Alabama-Mississippi Game would not be in existence today.”
Randy White, a Hall of Fame inductee in the Class of 2005 and a super volunteer himself, recognized quickly just how much Odom’s involvement means to the AHSAA and its member schools.
“I have had the privilege of working as an administrative assistant to Mr. Odom in the Alabama-Mississippi football game for the past four years,” said White. “I can honestly say that I have never been associated with anyone as dedicated, organized and detailed as Billy Odom. I did not know Billy when he was coaching in the Mobile area, but I know without a doubt his teams were well-prepared because of his attention to detail in all aspects of the game. I honestly cannot think of anyone more deserving (for the Hall of Fame).”
Odom was awarded the prestigious L’Arch Mobile Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012 and the Bob Pannone Service Award in 2017.
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